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17 Oct. 2012

What is an annulment of marriage?

Posted By The Buncher Law Corporation

An annulment of marriage operates in similar fashion to a dissolution of marriage: once the Court enters judgment, your marriage is terminated and you are considered a single person again. There are important distinctions between the two causes of action that this posting will address, but both proceedings ultimately result in the termination of your marriage.

An annulment of marriage should be considered when the actual validity of your marriage is in doubt. At its most basic level, an action for nullity essentially challenges whether any valid marriage ever occurred. The granting of an annulment can have drastic consequences that affect your rights to property, spousal support, entitlement to health insurance, or distribution of retirement assets. Because a nullity of marriage can potentially impact so many economic entitlements a husband or wife may be entitled to, you need to make sure filing for an annulment is in your best interests. Talking to an attorney who is well-versed in the applicable law is a good first step.

A marriage can either be void or voidable, depending on the facts of your case. Incestuous marriages are void per se, which means that the marriage - from the time of its inception - is illegitimate. It makes no difference that the parties may have consented to such a union - an incestuous marriage is void and cannot be "perfected" under the law. Marriages between parents, children, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews are void and cannot be cured. This same general principle applies to bigamous and polygamous marriages.

A voidable marriage is one that is legally defective, but not necessarily illegitimate. Voidable marriages are those involving minors, fraud, force, prolonged absence, physical incapacity, and/or mental incapacity. The underlying defects can sometimes be cured, or excused, and the parties themselves can decide whether to pursue an annulment or a dissolution of marriage. This is where the advice of experienced counsel can help guide you in your decision-making.

Ariel Tello is an associate with The Buncher Law Corporation in Irvine. His practice is focused on family law litigation and mediation. For a free consultation, and more information on the process, please contact our office.

Categories: Annulment, Dissolution
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